5 May 2010

A Minodge on the Paris Metro

I was reading that fare-dodgers on the Paris metro are now creating their own fare-dodging insurance. It works like this: a group of say 10 fare dodgers (it’s a national pastime with the young in Paris) each pay €5 each week into a collective fund. If a fare-dodging member of the group is caught and has to pay a €50 fine, the collective pays the €50 upon receipt of the fine ticket.

Anybody who has used the Paris metro will probably never have seen a ticket inspector but will have seen many people vaulting over the barriers. Given that the loss of ticket revenue is estimated at €80 million a year, you would think that that would pay for at least one ticket checker with a rottweiler at each set of barriers. Apparently the French don’t work that way – breaking the law like this is a national pastime.

Whilst this fine paying scheme is brilliantly simple, the concept of a group of people paying into a collective fund and reaping the benefits is not new. Scotland claims to have ‘invented’ this financial arrangement, called a menage or more commonly, a minodge, whereby, in the olden days, a group of women would each contribute a sum of money every week to be saved by one of the group – the administrator. Each woman in turn would then receive the weekly total which they proceeded to spend on those little luxuries which they'd never manage to buy from their weekly allowance. There was no chance that these women would ever manage to save the amount the minodge would pay out, whilst saving the weekly amount was rather more easily achieved and kept the money out of the hands of their husbands.

I remember minodges being quite common back in the 70s. They would operate in factories, offices and even amongst neighbours in tenement buildings. I was in one at Chrysler where the 8 guys in the office all ‘chipped in’ £5 a week and every 2 months, a virtual fortune was paid out. Of course, waiting 8 weeks for your payment turn wasn’t too bad. Being in a minodge of 50 or so people was rather different – you only got paid once a year and you had to hope that the administrator didn’t run off with the cash before it was your turn!

Similar to the Paris Metro scheme of course, is the ‘bar smoking minodge’ whereby when the smoking bans were introduced into pubs and clubs a few years ago, certain country pubs ignored the ban completely. The problem was – who would pay the fine if the constabulary passed and noticed a smoky atmosphere when the door was opened? The regulars of course. They would all chip into a ‘ban pot’ and if the landlord was ever fined, the pot would pay it and if, at the end of a year, no fine had been forthcoming, the regulars had a bloody good booze up all paid for by the minodge!

Talking about money – Nigel, our rich little rich guy, has been back to London and getting mixed up in trouble as usual. Read all about it at: http://monaconigel.blogspot.com/2010/05/night-back-in-london.html

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